Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia

Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia

by Aaron Sheehan-Dean


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In the first comprehensive study of the experience of Virginia soldiers and their families in the Civil War, Aaron Sheehan-Dean captures the inner world of the rank-and-file. Utilizing new statistical evidence and first-person narratives, Sheehan-Dean explores how Virginia soldiers—even those who were nonslaveholders—adapted their vision of the war's purpose to remain committed Confederates.

Sheehan-Dean challenges earlier arguments that middle- and lower-class southerners gradually withdrew their support for the Confederacy because their class interests were not being met. Instead he argues that Virginia soldiers continued to be motivated by the profound emotional connection between military service and the protection of home and family, even as the war dragged on. The experience of fighting, explains Sheehan-Dean, redefined southern manhood and family relations, established the basis for postwar race and class relations, and transformed the shape of Virginia itself. He concludes that Virginians' experience of the Civil War offers important lessons about the reasons we fight wars and the ways that those reasons can change over time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807861844
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 09/01/2009
Series: Civil War America
Edition description: 1
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 1,185,974
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Aaron Sheehan-Dean is assistant professor of history at the University of North Florida. He is editor of Struggle for a Vast Future: The American Civil War and The View from the Ground: The Experience of Civil War Soldiers.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Choosing War
Part I. Conflict and Collaboration
1. Building the Plain People's Confederacy: January-June 1861
2. A Nation of Their Own: July 1861-March 1862
Part II. The Crucible of War
3. The Ardor of Patriotism: April-July 1862
4. War in Earnest: August-December 1862
5. The Family War: January-December 1863
Part III. War without End
6. The Cost of Independence: January-June 1864
7. The Fall of the Confederacy: July 1864-March 1865
Epilogue: Swallowing the Elephant: Toward the New South
Appendix: Methodology

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From the Publisher

Aaron Sheehan-Dean enables us to see the human dimensions behind support for the Confederacy. He shows the impact of the economy, community values, family, and especially the experiences of war and the enemy in the formation of Confederate nationalism. He has done a service for those who want to understand more about that enduring question of why white southerners went to war to protect slavery and how the war created fresh reasons for resisting the enemy.—William Blair, editor of Civil War History

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